The organization of the future – where failure is an option

Last week, San Francisco hosted the Wisdom 2.0 Business conference – a gathering dedicated to harnessing the innovative mindset at work and creating the conditions for innovation to occur.

Key to this  mindset is having the courage to fail.

The definition of failure is changing and innovative companies of the future believe failure is an option, a necessity.

Organizations of the future will focus on what failure builds, instead of what it destroys.

Organizations of the future believe you can  train the courage to fail, and the ability to manage fear around that “failure”.

But it all starts with the organizational mindset.

Training the courage to fail is something I learned (and still actively practice) in Improv classes.

It was there I learned:

  1. How to fail happily, visibly, and how to embrace failure
  2. How to view mistakes as gifts and use it in a productive fashion
  3. How to use a failure mindset or mistakes as a way to gain trust, connection, and support across a team
  4. The more risks I take, and the more I fail – the more I learn, grow, change, improve.
  5. How to own up to my mistakes and to not be afraid to try again.

I was trained on how to fail. But, I was in an environment where failure was an option so my learning and development was accelerated.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better. But make sure the failure mindset you train extends outside the classroom.

 

 

What’s the drill – May 9: an education soundbite worthy of debate

“Good education has got to be good entertainment” - Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Tips for navigating the path from passion to purpose

It can be a bumpy ride, this whole passion and purpose adventure. Buckle your seatbelt but please remember to take in the view.

Here are some practical tips for navigating the journey to finding and pursuing your passion and purpose.

1. Mistakes are gifts

Something I’ve learned over the past 8 years is to truly embrace the improv principle of: “Mistakes are Gifts”. If we can learn to view what might be considered a mistake, as a gift, there really are no mistakes. Our definition of a mistake, or a failure can be shaped by our mindset — and our mindset is something we can control. What did you learn from each experience, and what lessons can you take with it on to the next stop in your adventure?

My “mistakes” contributed to so many positives – I feel more equipped to take on challenges, I have come to appreciate my breadth of experience, and I actually found my passion because of some of the “mistakes” I made in choosing past jobs.

Increase your bounce-back rate from these “mistakes” and use them as intuitive guides to help shape your path. What gold can you mine?

2. Diversify your dreams

This blog from HBR’s Passion and Purpose series stresses the importance of diversifying your dreams. It may seem silly to treat our dreams as stocks. But what happens if your dream never generates a return?

Keep an open mind as you look to follow your passion. Several years ago I was convinced I would be happy IF I landed a certain dream job. I very much had a “if then, this” attitude. I landed the job after over a year of waiting and paying my dues. Turns out, it didn’t make me happy. What I thought was my passion was just a hobby. Finding your passion doesn’t always include a means to an end. As so many say, the reward is the journey, not the destination.

Diversify your dreams. Find the tools that inspire you and keep adding to your toolbox. Remember that the tools you acquire can be used for a multitude of projects and jobs. Keep searching for more tools, keep adding to your toolbox. And most of all, keep an open mind.

3. Celebrate the small wins

It’s more important than we realize.

4. Practice gratitude in the face of uncertainty 

This quote from today’s HBR article encompasses the grateful, open-minded approach we need to keep on the path:

“develop a folder of gratitude – a constantly updated listed of all the things in life you’re grateful for. Chances are, many of the things on your list correspond neatly with your underlying passions. Then, take your list and amplify these passions with intelligent experiments. Test and invest in your areas of interest, and cultivate the joy of learning from failure. Finally, just like any investor worth their salt, double down on winners. If something strikes a chord, reallocate more time and energy to it. View your dreams as organic and ever-changing, and you’re much more likely to be pleased with the outcome”

Remain flexible, adaptable, open-minded and most of all curious. Set your intention and keep moving one foot in front of the other. There may be multiple paths, but the unknown is as exciting as it’s ever been.

What’s the drill – February 20 – How to delight your customer

What’s the drill for President’s Day is inspired by a product made of steel and concrete, and a lesson in how to surprise and delight your customer.

The Bay Bridge is one of the most well-known bridges in the United States – it connects San Francisco with Oakland in Northern California, and an average of 270,000 cars pass through it every day,  making it the bridge with the highest volume of commuter traffic in the region.  The bridge was set to be closed for repairs the entire Presidents Day weekend – and was to be closed until Tuesday at 5am. Traffic in and around the neighboring area was by no means pretty, and folks were surely inconvenienced by a disruption to their routine — after all, swimming the Bay is not a popular option.

Surprisingly, it was announced the Bridge would re-open a full day-and-a-half ahead of schedule, easing the commute home from the long weekend, and lessening the strain on weary travelers.

In short, this project accomplished something many do not – it under-promised and over-delivered.

Under promise and over-deliver – a tool which can be used to delight customers, bosses, co-workers and clients.

Set realistic expectations, increase your effort and efficiency of your work to raise your reputation, leave a positive impression, and surprise and delight your customer.

Although choosing a bridge is quite different from the more difficult and non-routine choices we make every day in selecting our products and services, this unexpected announcement increased gratitude and hopefully dissipated some of the frustration.

When you are updating a product, keeping a customer on-hold, or creating employee engagement programs – how can focusing on exceeding expectations alter mindsets, and hopefully consumer habits? I’d argue we focus too much on meeting expectations and not enough on exceeding them.

 

What is levity, and why it matters more than ever

In The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up, Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher argue that levity is a must-have tool for your workplace toolbox.

Levity, they argue, helps people work better. For example, it helps people pay attention, eases tension, and enhances a feeling of connection. These factors certainly can contribute to a happier and healthier workplace, and a more engaged one at that.

Increasing levity, and in turn, engagement can have a large effect on profits. We know the cost of disengaged workers:  the Gallup organization has found that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy roughly $416 billion last year, primarily through lost productivity.

It seems the workplace could benefit from levity, or happiness training.  Now, the question is how. Is there such a thing as levity training?

We can re-train our brain to be more positive, can we train ourselves to be more light-hearted in the stress of day-to-day work, pressures, deadlines, and a difficult economy?

It may not be as hard as it seems. I’ll offer a few tips below.

We know that laughter and humor, for example, release dopamine (and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol) in the brain which regulates mood, motivation, attention and learning. Findings from research at Stanford indicate that humor can have positive effects not only on mood, but also on motivation and learning.

But it’s not just about the laughs. Just like we often dispel myths about Improv training, it’s important to clarify what levity means. The authors stress levity is really a sense of lightness. Just like formal Improv training, it’s less about being funny and more about being able to have fun, and see the humorous side of everyday situations — especially difficult ones.

Improv and levity training can look like this:

  1. Creating a more positive mindset
  2. Building connections and trust amongst groups and teams
  3. Increasing your capacity for gratitude and the gifts of others
  4. Being more present – to appreciate and recognize everything and everyone around you
  5. Increasing confidence to make building connections with others more natural
  6. Turning mistakes into gifts
  7. Adding more play into day-to-day work

We are in charge of our own happiness and how we measure it, but the environment in which we work can do more to increase workplace levity and contribute to more positive experiences at the office. It is worth taking the time.

Gostick and Christopher include a quiz about workplace levity. Take this quiz and see how your workplace measures up. If it falls short, what small changes can you initiate?

New employees are made to feel welcome.
Meetings are positive and light.
We have fun activities at least once a month.
It’s common to hear people laughing around here.
I can be myself at work.
We have a lot of celebrations for special events.
When brainstorming, we like to have fun.
My boss is usually optimistic and smiling.
Customers would call us fun to do business with.
I have a friend at work who makes me laugh.
We have a good time together.